In his book, Out of the Doghouse: A Relationship-Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating, Dr. Rob Weiss lists seven things that cheating men can do to help mend their damaged relationship and re-establish an intimate bond with their betrayed partner. These seven tasks include:
- Develop empathy for your partner.
- Learn to disagree in healthy and productive ways.
- Instead of telling your partner you care, show it.
- Always keep the need to rebuild relationship trust in mind.
- Anticipate and deal with potential hazards before they happen.
- Don’t forget about self-care.
- Express gratitude to your partner.
In this post, we will examine task #4 on this list: Always keep the need to rebuild relationship trust in mind.
Research shows that betrayed partners are typically more upset by the lies, secrets, and gaslighting that their cheating partner used to cover up his or her infidelity than the infidelity itself. Unfortunately, simply stopping the cheating and saying it won’t happen again is not enough to rebuild trust. The wound of betrayal is too deep, and trust must be rebuilt over time via actions. This means cheating partners must become rigorously honest in all aspects of life. They must learn to tell the truth and tell it faster. And even then, it generally takes a year or even longer before relationship trust starts to feel ‘normal’ again.
To help with this process, we have provided the following tips for cheating partners:
- Make rigorous honesty a way of life, not just with your significant other but with everyone. When your partner sees you being honest with every person you encounter, your partner is more likely to believe that you are also being honest with him/her.
- Keep your commitments. Suit up and show up when and where you say you will. Keep your promises to your partner no matter what, even if doing so is wildly inconvenient. If your partner sees you keeping your daily commitments, he/she is more likely to trust that you’re also keeping your commitment to fidelity.
- Be patient. You cannot rebuild relationship trust overnight. It’s a process, and it takes both time and a considerable amount of conscious effort. Even worse, it’s usually a two steps forward, one step backward situation. You’ll think you’re doing great and your partner is finally coming around, but then something will upset him/her—you probably won’t even know what—and it will suddenly feel as if you are back at ground zero. This is normal. So don’t get angry about it.
- Understand that the new version of relationship trust you are building will not be as unconditionally accepting as the old version. As such, you will need to maintain much tighter boundaries than before: calling if you are running late, admitting when you are wrong, and fessing up if you tell a lie or keep a secret. And you might need to maintain these new boundaries for a very long time.
It is hard to accept your betrayed partner’s continuing distrust when you know that you are finally being rigorously honest about all aspects of your life. However, doing so is part of the healing process for you both. Over time, as you continually work to re-earn your partner’s trust, he/she will come around. One day you’ll wake up and realize that your partner hasn’t questioned you in weeks. And that will feel incredible. Even better, because you had to work so hard to re-establish relationship trust, you’re much less likely to break it again in the future.